Probiotics Simplified:

How many billion beneficial bacteria in a serving size do we need?

By Michele McMurry

Probiotic supplement use is on the rise, as increasing numbers of health care providers, patients, and consumers turn to holistic solutions for ailments as well as overall improved health. But labels can be confusing. Not unlike sun protection factor (SPF) and dizzying options to choose from, varying levels of colony forming units (CFUs) present in probiotic supplements make us question, “how much is enough?”

While a higher number might make us feel better protected, little practical argument exists to support the idea that an SPF 100 product provides more effective coverage than one containing SPF 30. Likewise, with probiotics, products touting 80 billion and 100 billion CFUs of bacteria are in many instances, overkill or of no value.

In fact, no research to date indicates a defined dosage of CFUs or number of strains necessary for achieving positive results in treating a variety of disorders, according to gastroenterologist Dr. Lawrence Hoberman, creator of EndoMune probiotics.

“In my 40-plus years of research, I have not observed any studies showing 100 billion was more effective than, say 10 to 20 billion,” Dr. Hoberman says.

To the contrary, consumers could be paying more for ingredients they don’t need.

“While more seems better, in many cases the higher number is made up of filler or non-beneficial strains of bacteria.”

How many billion CFU probiotics should I take?

Generally − as explained in the Probiotics Supplements Review which includes ConsumerLab.com’s tests of popular probiotics – a probiotic should provide at least 1 billion CFUs, or viable cells, with daily adult doses averaging between 1 billion and 10 billion. To maintain a healthy digestive tract, a probiotic containing 1 to 2 billion CFUs is recommended, while doses of 10 billion CFU and higher can ease bacterial imbalances such as antibiotic-induced diarrhea.

For optimal wellness and gut health, Dr. Hoberman recommends a more robust probiotic of 10 bacteria strains to deliver 20 billion CFUs for adults ages 8 and over, and one of 4 bacteria strains to deliver 10 billion CFUs for newborns to age 3. In addition, products containing both probiotics and prebiotics – non-digestible starches shown to optimize good bacteria in the colon – are even more effective, he says.

“Formulations of prebiotics and probiotics working symbiotically have proven particularly beneficial in reversing obesity-fueled, metabolic inefficiencies such as diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol.”\

Dr. Hoberman - MD MonthlyDr. Lawrence Hoberman is a San Antonio-based gastroenterologist and expert in probiotics and digestive health. Learn more about the latest in probiotic advances at www.endomune.com.

About the Author

Michele McMurry is a freelance writer and editor based in San Antonio, Texas. Contact Michele at m@mcmurrycommunications.com.